5 Things We Learned from ‘The Board’ with Kick It Out’s Troy Townsend

5 Things We Learned from ‘The Board’ with Kick It Out’s Troy Townsend

Troy Townsend gave VERSUS FC members his perspective on how racism is plaguing football – and what we can all do to help – as the new season gets underway.

September 18th 2020

Troy Townsend is one of the most important and influential figures in football. As Kick It Out's Head of Development, Troy helps address the racial inequalities that exist within the game, leading work to tackle gaps in representation across all areas of the game and delivering equality and diversity workshops to clubs, players and media platforms.

He joined VERSUS FC for our second meeting of 'The Board', a forum for our members to listen and learn about the biggest issues in the game right now, and make suggestions how VERSUS can be a platform that drives conversations forward in an impactful way.

Across 90 mins, Troy answered questions from Chair of 'The Board' and VERSUS writer, Mayowa Quadri, before taking queries from our members on a 1:1 basis.

Troy dropped nothing but gems. For those who couldn't be there, we've picked out five things VERSUS FC members learned from 'The Board' last night.


1. Language Really Matters

After years of progressive voices talking about the problem with “Pace and Power”, commentators and pundits are finally receiving guidance on how to address racial bias in TV coverage. Troy told us that our language in these circumstances really matters, with bias messaging creating a misconception about what Black players can and cannot achieve, on or off the pitch: “If Black players aren’t described as intelligent, if we only ever hear them reduced to physical attributes, it will significantly reduce their chances to work in management or at executive levels of the game.”

2. Why UEFA Still Won’t Take Racism Seriously

At this stage of the game, everyone knows that football’s governing bodies don’t take racism seriously enough. Just this week, the President of the French Football Federation said racism can’t exist because “fans cheer when a Black player scores” – and previously, we’ve seen a player receive tougher punishments for wearing ‘Paddy Power’ sponsored underwear than a national federation does for its fans making racist noises for 90 minutes. We know it’s not good enough, but why isn’t it changing? Troy said it’s all about not having representation at the highest level: “Until the people in these rooms have lived the experiences that I have, until they’ve been on the receiving end of racism, they will never, ever understand.”


3. Players Aren’t Afraid Anymore

Troy said that one of the big positives to emerge from a difficult 2020 is that the game’s new generation of players are finding their voice and pro-actively using their platforms to promote positive change. He praised US sports culture and said while our athletes still take the lead from game changers like Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James, it won’t be like that for much longer with Premier League players more willing than ever to challenge the establishment on their own terms. “You look at taking the knee and it wasn’t scripted or pre-recorded, players did it without being directed by someone else. I think that if we had a major situation of social injustice in our country, our players would not be silent. They’d do something. I don’t think we’ve been in that position before.”


4. Black Lives Matter isn’t a campaign – ‘No Room for Racism’ Is

Last week, it was announced the Premier League would be including a ‘No Room for Racism’ badge on all shirt sleeves for the forthcoming season, replacing the Black Lives Matter badges that had been there previously. Troy was critical of this move, saying that it dilutes the message of the BLM movement and has replaced last season’s positive steps with something that is largely performative: “People must recognise that ‘No Room for Racism’ is a Premier League campaign – it comes and it goes. Black Lives Matter is not a campaign that has an end date, it’s a movement that must kept on being talked about. By taking it off shirts and replacing it with something created in a Premier League office, it loses meaning and we need to see a lot more action from the Premier League rather than stickers.”


5. It’s Time for Football to Throw Out ‘BAME’

Troy said that it’s time for football bodies to stop using the term BAME, saying that putting all minority groups into one bracket others everyone that’s non-white and marginalises individual groups with their own challenges and experiences. He also says it’s currently being used by some in football as a quick way to improve diversity figures: “They think that if we include Black people and Asian people in the same group, they can sound better by saying ‘we have 10% minority representation in our staff’… or whatever it is. That’s disrespectful. If I want to know about the pathways for Black coaches, I want figures on Black coaches. If I want to talk about the lack of Asian players in the game, I want figures on Asian players. BAME isn’t helpful.”

Troy Townsend is Head of Development at Kick It Out. You can follow him on Twitter: @Towno10.

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